The Pocketbook

(2000)

"The Pocketbook" is the third song of Tom Cipullo's song cycle How to Get Heat Without Fire, which sets the poetry of Marilyn Kallet.

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The recording of "The Pocketbook," provided in the audio playlist to the right, is made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. The performers are Sharon I-Chun Cheng, soprano, and Mark McNeill, piano, and the performance took place on June 19, 2010 at Pepperdine University. To listen, please click on the track name itself.

The Pocketbook
by Marilyn Kallet


"Fluid Italian suede
in garnet,"
the copy croons.
I memorize
the Bergdorf Goodman
catalogue,
the blonde with garnet lips
carrying my pocketbook
against her slim hip.
570 dollars.
One chunk of my daughter's
college.

After weeks of foreplay,
I sell out my family,
dial the toll-free number.
It's miraculously easy,
just ten "working days"
and here it is, nestled
in a silk carrying case.
For days I hide it
behind the recliner,
playing peekaboo,
trying it out when my husband's
not home.


Nothing else in my life's
this beautiful.
To keep it
I would have to buy
silk suits, tweed coats,
a silver Porsche,
a house on Park Avenue.


My shoulders are unworthy
of the strap
in wine-red suede.
I would have to have inches
surgically added to my height.


"American women carry
their souls
in their pocketbooks,"
Edgar Allen Poe said.
Not just my soul,
my money,
my identity,
my credit cards."

This pocketbook soft
and red
like a womb,
room where I could
carry myself in comfort,
be my own mother,
be drunk with color,
570 dollars.


I could sell my
wedding ring,
break into neighbors'
houses,
after two years
in the women's
correctional facility
there it would be
waiting for me,
fluid Italian suede
in garnet,
big enough to carry
the collected works of Poe,
O my fair sister, O my soul.


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